Sunday, January 3, 2016

What's the criteria for calling somthing "activism" versus "terrorism"?

Reporting on how 150 armed "militiamen" have taken over a federal building in Oregon, the New York Times referred to them as activists and protesters.


It's not even the bogus cause -- the arsonists admitted what they did, and say that the "protests" do not represent them -- that really deserves our attention. It's the language. Because we're describing one hundred and fifty armed people occupying a federal building -- and, if the presence of ample firearms during their "protest" wasn't explicit threat enough, they made it clear what the purpose of those was:
However, in an interview with The Oregonian earlier on Saturday evening, Mr. Bundy and his brother said they would not rule out violence if law enforcement officers attempted to remove them from the building.
“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy told the newspaper. He said he planned to remain in the building for “years.”
And yet we're using terms like "demonstration." "Activist." We are reminded that this was a "peaceful protest" that led to occupation of the building.

Which leads me to the obvious question: in what sense can we describe a hundred and fifty armed people demanding to get their way -- or else they'll use their guns -- as peaceful, before or after they seize our property? Threatening armed mobs making demands, and peaceful protests, seem to be mutually exclusive concepts.

Unless, of course, you're white and conservative. Because if you're white and conservative, the word "terrorist" just doesn't get uttered. You can shoot up a women's health care facility like Robert Lewis Dear. You can stage an armed takeover of federal property. You can threaten to shoot law enforcement officers as during the Bundy ranch stand off. And you're a protester. A lone wolf. A militiaman. A patriot.

But if you're not some combination of white, Christian and conservative? You don't have to bring guns anywhere to be deemed a terrorist. Just ask Black Lives Matter, which has been likened to everything from terrorists to "garbage" to Nazis and white supremacists on Fox News.

Aggressive white liberals aren't exempt from the 't' word, either. When environmentalists protesting a mine in Wisconsin wrestled a camera from one of the mining company's personnel and stole it, conservatives rapidly denounced the incident as "terrorism," and crafted legislation to counter the "threat."

And, of course, it goes without saying that if a Muslim commits an act of violence, it's pretty much guaranteed that someone will be talking "terrorism" before the dust has settled -- and who to bomb, as soon as.

But as long as you're the right combination of conservative, white and Christian, it seems you can do pretty much anything without getting labeled a terrorist these days. Even assemble in large numbers, with lots of guns, seize federal land, and threaten to murder officers who try to enforce the law.

Because, you know, activism, and peaceful protests.

2 comments:

  1. Truth be told, it turns out there are only 12-15 people with guns holed up in that building on the wildlife reserve. They are an itinerant bunch that travels around the country attaching themselves to the latest cause that pits farmers and ranchers against some agency of the federal government. something like vigilantes for hire, except they aren't paid in any currency -- only publicity. In actuality some of the larger group that gathered at the refuge initially are members of several white supremacist groups. Why is it whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, these groups lose their collective minds?

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  2. Technically, we have to apply legal definitions. THe FBI has one for "domestic terrorist" and these guys fit it to a T. In practice, where you can be legally designated a terrorist for exposing animal abuse, the word no longer has any meaning. In the latter case I would be proud to be a terrorist.

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